I entered the hospital pregnant with three babies at 22 weeks and after months in the neonatal care unit, brought two home. It is very difficult for other people to understand your grief when you lose a baby from a multiple pregnancy.
Family, friends, and even physicians think that the pain is somehow softened by the fact that there is still one or more babies that remain: like some kind of consolation prize.
The thing is, you bond with your babies, not some generic pregnancy. I could tell there were three distinct personalities almost as soon I could feel them move and correctly identified my troublemaker at only twenty-two weeks!
Around the time I was pregnant, I heard of a local women with quintuplets. She made it farther along than I did in her pregnancy, but sadly also lost one of her children. When my boys were about a year old we saw them at a street fair. The site of her four beautiful children paralyzed me. I was so jealous and angry that she had managed to get four — I felt I had fought harder and scraped by only to go home with two.
“She is so lucky to have four babies,” I said, more to myself than anyone else, but my voice did not reflect any of the happiness that should normally accompany such a statement.
My then husband replied, “Don’t you think she misses her other baby as much as we miss ours?”
It was only then that it became clear.
Up until that moment I could understand how someone with twins would feel losing a baby, but I could not grasp how someone who managed to get four babies out of a pregnancy could be anything but elated.
Drowning in my own sorrow, I could not lift myself beyond my own frame of reference. That is when I really understood this kind of sorrow has nothing to do with numbers.
Going from five to four feels as bad as going from three to two or from two to one. All of us who have lost a baby feel the same pain and cannot be made whole again, not even by the love of our other children.
So if you meet someone in a similar situation, please don’t say, “At least you have another one.” Please just say, “I’m sorry for your loss.”